Sugar Cake

Please do not be put off by the name of this bake. I think the origin of this cake comes from Medieval times when sugar was such a luxury, hence the emphasis in the name. This is a really simple, delicate and airy cake. It is somewhere between a yeast bread and cake. But despite the lack of any inside filling, the cake is incredibly moist due to the creamy poured topping.

I can’t say that it is healthy, but it will be great for special breakfasts.

Medieval Sugar Cake

SUGAR CAKE

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons dry yeast

100ml milk

150g sugar

150g butter (room temperature)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

250g flour

200ml single cream

Method:

  1. Add yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a warm milk, stir and leave it in a warm place to froth for about 15 minutes.
  2. Then add the eggs, 100g of butter and vanilla, beat lightly. Gradually add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon. The dough will be sticky. Cover it with a damp cloth or towel and put it in a warm place for 1 hour.
  3. After this time put the dough in a preferred tin, grease with vegetable oil, and spread evenly over the tin. Cover with the towel and put in a warm place for 30 minutes. Then top it with the remaining butter (in a little knobs size) and with the sugar, evenly distributed.
  4. Place it in a preheated to 200C oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the cake from the oven, pour the cream on top and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the cake is nicely golden brown.
  5. Serve warm or cold.

Medieval Sugar Cake

Medieval Sugar Cake

 

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Cod Pot

I guess this recipe is similar to the Caribbean way of cooking salt cod and plantain stew (at least an article in a magazine said that it is a traditional method in villages across St. Lucia), although, I’d expect them to use more spices. It uses the addition of green bananas which I’ve never come across! However, their texture is similar to potato and it is not very distinctive when cooked. Never the less, I’ve tried this recipe and it was absolutely delicious, we couldn’t stop eating it. It’s just so comforting on a dark rainy night.

Cod pot

COD FILLET ONE POT

(Recipe adapted from Good Things Magazine)

Ingredients:

(Serves 6)

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 leek, washed and finely sliced

1 courgette, trimmed and cut in half lengthways

100g butternut squash, peeled

750g large new potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

2 green unripe bananas, peeled and sliced into 3mm-thick pieces

2 salted anchovies in oil

175ml white wine

365ml whole milk

200ml double cream

500ml vegetable stock

500g cod fillet, skinned and boned, cut into chunks

Bunch of spring onions, washed, trimmed, and finely sliced

Bunch of dill, roughly chopped

Juice of ½ a lime

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Add the sunflower oil to a large pan and gently soften the onion and leek over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Do not let them colour.
  2. Remove the seeds from the butternut squash using a teaspoon, then grate the butternut squash and courgette into the pan with the onion and leek. Continue cooking over a gentle heat for 5 minutes. Add the new potatoes and green bananas to the pan. Stir well and add the anchovies. Turn up the heat to full and add the white wine, then reduce the liquid in the pan by half the volume.
  3. Now add the milk, cream and vegetable stock. Bring this to the boil and skim off the foam that rises to the top with a small ladle. Reduce the heat to a simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked, then add the cod fillets to the pot and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or freshly ground pepper as needed.
  4. Ladle into large soup bowls. Mix the sliced spring onions, chopped dill and lime juice with the olive oil, and add a small amount of the garnish to each bowl.

Perfecting the Brownies

Defining what are the perfect brownies is a constant source of debate. People tend to fall into two camps: those who prefer a crumbly, cake-like brownie and those who enjoy the chewy and rich variety. Mark and I definitely fall into the chewy and rich camp and we’ve been hunting for a perfect recipe for a long time.

At last, after many failures and attempts at allegedly foolproof recipes, I found this one, which works! Well, because brownies can be difficult – too short a cooking time, and they are far too runny and thick, too long and they’re dry and cakey. Plus there is the infamous and sometimes elusive cracked glossy topping.

This recipe is a slightly tweaked famous Leith School of Food and Wine and they are describe as ‘decadent, indulgent and deliciously excessive’.

Rich Dark Chocolate Brownies

LEITH RICH DARK BROWNIES

Ingredients:

(Makes 20)

200g good quality dark chocolate

140g butter

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

85g plain flour

handful of roughly chopped walnuts (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Break the chocolate into the small pieces and place in a large heatproof bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the chocolate. stand the bowl over a pan of just-boiled water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water, to melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally.
  3. Set aside to cool for 2-3 minutes, then whisk in the sugar using an electric whisk until well combined.
  4. Gradually whisk the eggs one by one into the chocolate mixture and beat until smoothly combined. Sift the flour and whisk in well for about 20 second until the colour begins to lighten. Stir in the chopped walnuts (or any extras you chose to add).
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until a stick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs (not wet batter!) clinging to it. It s better to slightly undercook then overcook brownies, as they should still be fudge in the middle and will become less moist as they cool.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for 2 minutes before lifting carefully from the tin and transferring to a wire rack to cool. Remove the paper before the brownies is completely cold. Cut into 20 squares using a sharp knife. These are delicious cold or warm, served with cream, ice cream, creme fraiche or, if you want to be really indulgent, a fudge sauce.

A Little Extra:

Any extras should serve to enhance, rather than mask a brownie’s fabulous chocolate taste.

Go nuts – A handful of toasted pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts add a pleasing textural contrast.

Get fruity – Dried berries (sour cherries, cranberries, raspberries) or orange zest all go well with chocolate.

Lace with spice – For a Mexican-style brownie, add a pinch of cinnamon or a dash of chilli.

Top tipple – For adults-only indulgence, add a slug of bourbon or a tot of a rich, dark rum.

Perk it up – Coffee and chocolate are natural partners: so try adding a dash of espresso or choc-coated coffee beans to the batter.Decadent Dark Chocolate Brownies

Pan Fried Salmon and Tomato-Braised Lentils Stew

This is one of my favourite ways of cooking green lentils, the consistency is so soft and creamy, it’s almost like a risotto, just using lentil instead of rice. Occasionally when we have it as a main dish, served just with broccoli rabe, I would add splash of cream at the end of cooking, but on this occasion I opted out.

Pan-fried salmon and tomato-braised lentil stew

PAN-FRIED SALMON & TOMATO-BRAISED LENTIL STEW

Ingredients:

Serves 4

4 fillets of salmon

1/2 lemon (optional)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups green French lentils
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable), plus some extra if needed
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly torn (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sweat the onions over a low heat for about 8 minutes until translucent, add the celery, garlic and cook another minute. Add the lentils, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and a splash of the stock. Increase heat to medium and stir occasionally until stock has been absorbed. Continue adding stock and stirring occasionally until the lentils are just tender, about 30-35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the salmon.  Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the salmon skin-side down, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and squeeze over a little lemon juice. Fry for 2-3 minutes, then turn the salmon over and fry for a further 1-2 minutes, or until cooked through. Squeeze over a little more lemon juice and taste to check the seasoning. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Stir and check for taste the lentil stew. Stir in the basil leaves, then serve immediately with the salmon on top.

Chilli & Lemony Pork Medallions

Who would’ve thought that a combination of lemon and chilli goes surprisingly well with pork medallions. With minimum preparation this quick and easy dish is perfect for a mid-week supper or even an impromptu dinner party.

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CHILLI & LEMONY PORK MEDALLIONS

(Original recipe came from ‘Delicious’ magazine)

Ingredients:

4-6 medallions (depending on the size)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced

150ml dry white wine

juice of 1/2  lemon

200ml tub half-fat crème fraîche

handful of chopped chives or spring onion

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Bash each pork medallion with a rolling pin to flatten out, season all over. Heat half the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat, add the pork and fry about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove with a slotted spoon, set aside, cover over with the foil and leave it to rest aside.

2. Add the chilli to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and bubble until reduced by half, then stir in the lemon juice and crème fraîche. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes, until thickened slightly.

3. Serve pork medallions with any of your preferred accompaniment, such as rice, potatoes, pasta. (We had it with sweet potato mash). Divide the pork and sauce between the plates and sprinkle each with a few of the chopped chives or spring onions.

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Table Apple Jam

I call it ‘table jam’ because of the little amount of sugar it has in it. The downside is that it won’t last too long, but you can feel less guilty consuming this on top of your granola, yogurt, toast, etc.

This chunky apple jam recipe has a hint of spice that reminds me of festive season. Leave the spices out if you prefer a pure apple jam! Depending on the sweetness of the apples used, the amount of sugar may be adjusted to taste. Also, orange peel and juice are optional, but I love this citrus addition.

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TABLE APPLE JAM

Ingredients:

1kg peeled, cored, and chopped apples

juice and peel of 1 orange (alternatively use juice of 1/2 lemon)

100 ml water

250 g caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 clove

Method:

In a large pan over a medium heat, combine the apples, water, orange juice, peel and zest and spice. Cook and stir for 40-50 minutes until the apples have reduced and became partly mushy, but still with some chunks. Add more water if during cooking apple mixture start to dry out to avoid burning.

When you reach the desired consistency, take the jam off the heat, let it cool and pour into the jam jars. Keep it refrigerated.

Chicken and Apples Curry

This curry is for those whom like mild ones. As an alternative to the Korma, try this mild yet flavoursome dish with a tangy sweet and sour taste given by the addition of sliced apples.

Apple chicken curry

APPLE CHICKEN CURRY

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oil/ghee

2 onions, diced

2 bay leaves

2 cloves

2.5cm cinnamon stick

1 pack of skinned chicken thighs (about 8 pieces)

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon grated fresh root ginger

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 tablespoon ground almonds

200ml natural yogurt

3 apples, peeled, cored, sliced

1 tablespoon flaked almonds for decoration (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the oil or ghee in a heavy bottom pan and fry the onions with the bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick for about 3-5 minutes until the onions are beginning to soften but have not yet begun to brown.
  2. Add the chicken pieces to the onions and continue to fry for at least another 5 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat and add the garam masala, ginger, garlic, salt, chilli powder, ground almonds and cook, stirring constantly, for another 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in the yogurt and stir for a couple more minutes. Add some water if the consistency is too thick.
  5. Add the apples, cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Check that the chicken is cooked through and serve immediately, garnished with the flaked almonds, if you wish.

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